Thursday, October 06, 2005

diary of a stone monkey lxxi

YS: Dear All,

I think I must tell you about Simon Jackson.

My mother and father used to invoke his name, as other parents might call upon the noble examples of Qu Yuan and Cai Wenji. My father told me of how when he was working in London, he visited this sage old colleague of his, Anthony Jackson, and gifted his youngest son with a volume of Asiapac’s “Fun With Chinese Characters”.

Baited with the thrill of the Orient, little Simon Jackson was to grow to become a great Bridge Across Cultures, yea, fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, performing grand feats of transcaucasian diplomacy between British Industry and Chinese Enterprise, with a Chinese girlfriend at his side (they are somewhat compulsory) and a tendency to irritate waiters in Limehouse when he ordered spring rolls in Cantonese, and said, “Cor mate, I don’t speak a word o’that rubbish.” Even when he visited us as a skinny teenager in Hong Kong, his gusto in culture consumption famously overrode his Jewish heritage:

Father: So he told us, “If it’s made of pork, don’t tell me!” And then he jia gao beng!

Mum: Someday you’ll meet an angmoh like that, who’s better than you at Chinese, and then you really think you’ll be better than him in English?

(Pregnant, bitter pause)

YS: Anyway, since we put up Simon back then, they felt it’s only fair for him to put me up right now. But the question is, how well does my family know the real Simon Jackson?


Q1. If you were Simon Jackson, thirtysomething East Asian business whiz, and your Singaporean friends rang you to take care of their son on his visit, would you:

A) offer to pick him up from the airport?
B) e-mail him your address and directions?
C) do neither until he called you panicked the day before departure?

Q2. Having established that you won’t be at home when he arrives from the airport, would you:

A) Leave your keys with a neighbour?
B) Leave your keys under the doormat?
C) Leave your keys in the recycling bin?

Q3. Having asked Yi-Sheng to call you upon getting out of customs at 6 am, would you:

A) Make sure you were awake by 6 am?
B) Make sure your phone was set to outdoor profile overnight?
C) Leave your phone on silent mode and sleep through two calls from public phones (which cost 60p = S$1.20)?

Q4. Once awake, you would you meet Yi-Sheng by:

A) frantically calling him on his mobile to make sure he’s alright.
B) responsibly leaving a note for him at the door.
C) coincidentally bumping into him and his giant duffel bag as he treks the long way round from the Tube station to your house, both recognising one another despite not having met for eight years.

Q5. Though already on my way to work, you would ensure Yi-Sheng’s safety and comfort by:

A) Walking 50 metres back to my house and letting him in.
B) Explaining to him carefully where to find the keys.
C) Mumbling affirmation when Yi-Sheng asks if it’s in the “green and black thing”, and rushing off to work in a non-cellphone-accessible area while Yi-Sheng empties the recycling bin several times in a desperate attempt to discover the keys and gives up after trying to call twice and stops to read heteroinsecurity magazines about “Being A Bloke’s Bloke” in the garden while the neighbours stare at him, and luckily, calling back just before your meeting to explain that the keys are in a white envelope tucked into the side of the bin (though with all the reshuffling, it’s at the bottom already, and a trifle grimy at that).

Q6. On discovering Yi-Sheng at 8pm that night sleeping on the living room couch because he wasn’t sure if the extra bed was vacant or not, you would:

A) apologise and go out for dinner.
B) have dinner indoors and chat.
C) get him and your septuagenarian father Anthony to help you move out your old refrigerator down three flights of stairs and then leave him alone in your house while you went out swimming.

Mostly A) => Wow, you’ve really managed to combine Western and Eastern (and Middle Eastern) hospitality into one seamless finish! Give yourself a hand!
Mostly B) => You are gracious, yet casually efficient. Not bad either!
Mostly C) => FAN-F**KING –TASTIC!!!! You’re SIMON JACKSON!!!

YS: Oh, but it makes it sound like I dislike Simon. He’s rather distant, but he’s alright, definitely, and he’s not quite what our parents thought. For example:

Q7. How old was SJ when he first started studying Chinese?

A) 6
B) 11
C) 16
D) 21

ANSWER: D). He said he’d have liked to begin when he received the Asiapac book at 11, though.

Q8. In what order of fluency does SJ speak the following languages?

A) French
B) Italian
C) Chinese
D) Latin

ANSWER: A, B, C, D. He started Latin before any of the others, though.

Q9. When SJ’s Chinese teacher speaks to him in Mandarin, he addresses her in:

A) Mandarin
B) Cantonese
C) English.

ANSWER: C). I’m sorry, mumsies.

Q10. Simon Jackson knew I was homosexual when I was

A) 5
B) 10
C) 16
D) 24

ANSWER: A). He only mentioned it to you when I was 16, mum, because he thought anyone with eyes would have known already.

YS: I thought I was a rather butch 5 year-old, really.

SJ: No. You weren’t. (Goes back to his washing)

Q11. Simon’s present job involves business linkages between the UK and:

A) China.
B) Southeast Asia.
C) India.

ANSWER: C). He’s tried to study Hindi, but he says it’s way too difficult.

Q12. Out of respect to the guests, all the meat at Simon’s bar bitzvah was:

A) Kosher.
B) Halal.
C) Porkalicious.

ANSWER: B). Most of the meat he buys now is halal, too. He works with loads of Muslims at the office, and shops where they do. Also loves his pork and shellfish.

Q13. Simon owns the Lonely Planets for:

A) Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.
B) Egypt
C) China
D) Brazil
E) Indian Himalaya
F) South India
G) Vietnam
H) Central America on a Shoestring
I) Cuba

ANSWER: All of the above. You’ll notice there’s nothing on Europe. Bugger.

Q14. In Simon’s kitchen, which of the following varieties of tea will you find?

A) Earl Grey with Bergamot
B) Assam with Kerala spices
C) Green tea
D) Kwong Sang superior brand
E) Eight-treasures-covered-bowl

ANSWER: All of the above. There’s a trend here.

Q15. Elsewhere in the kitchen, which of the following will you *not* find?

A) Plantains
B) Gooseberry jam
C) Bhasmati rice
D) Soya milk
E) Pate de foie canard entier
F) Marmite
G) Three different kinds of soya sauce
H) Kicap manis
I) A gelato machine
J) Jamaican jonkanoo seriously hot pepper sauce
K) Organic peanut butter
L) Champagne
M) Turmeric, cumin and green cardamoms
N) French rock salt
O) Hovis wholemeal
P) Thai lemongrass and coconut powder
Q) V8
R) A six-pack of Coca-cola
S) Chicory and coffee essence
T) Melatonin
U) Sainsbury’s arrabiata and tomato and mascarpone sauces
V) Courvoisier
W) Costa Rican coffee
X) Welsh goat cheese
Y) Tahini
Z) A toaster

ANSWER: Z). He does, however, have a big ol’ grill, which he was using to fry Portobello mushrooms last night. He has cookbooks on Caribbean, Sylvia’s soul food, Sichuan, Singapore, and various fusion cuisines.

YS: I think you get the picture. I could talk about his library (Leadership Lessons Learnt from the Panchatantra? The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier?) or his DVD collection (2046? Doctor Who?) or the music on his electronic keyboard. But I think it’s pretty clear that I’m delaing with a kind of comfortable cultural polymorphousness that’s been seriously reduced by my parents’ representations of Mr Jackson.

I’d developed a comeback for my mother whenever she told me about SJ. I’d talk about mother tongue and lover tongue, how we’re drawn by the language we choose instead of the language we’re born with. If you really want to make comparisons to my Chinese, I’d tell my mother, ask Simon how good his Hebrew is. I wouldn’t bet on anything, now though. He’s got a mezuzah on his front door, and Jewish magazines in his recycling bin.

He’s still pretty distant. Got home last night late, and he tries to teach me how to do cryptic crosswords while marinating beef. I’m never quite certain whether he’s looking down on me, putting up with me, or just being reserved.

Anyhow, better not leak this mail to him. That’d confirm his attitudes toward me rather solidly. Nosy self-centred trollop that I am.




Johnjon said...
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bizopps1 said...
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